On the Grid: A Year of Progress 12/16/22
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From skyrocketing energy prices to continued threats to democracy, to highly anticipated elections both domestically and internationally, 2022 was a roller coaster of a year for us all. In this week’s newsletter, we’re highlighting some of the work Third Way is most proud of this year to make energy more affordable, reliable, secure, and clean. There’s a lot left to do in 2023 to make sure that clean energy is built as quickly as possible, including getting funding out the door quickly and in a smart way, removing regulatory roadblocks through permitting reform, and increasing the public’s awareness of the positive impact to their communities. We’ll have more on that early in the New Year. In the meantime, thank you all so much for your feedback, collaboration, and amazing impact in 2022. There is much to be grateful for!
Happy Holidays, and a Happy New Year from Third Way’s Climate and Energy Program!
This has been the most significant year for climate and clean energy legislation, ever. Building off last year's Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, President Biden signed the CHIPS and Science and Inflation Reduction Acts into law. This trifecta of legislation is providing the blueprint for a renewed decarbonization and industrial strategy through nearly $500 billion in clean energy investments. Together, these bills delicately walk the fine line between public investment and private initiative to drive deep decarbonization while generating economic benefits and making America globally competitive.
Here are just a few of the more than two dozen policies that Third Way directly helped influence across the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act.
Read More: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Director of the Climate and Energy program, in E&E news, discussed how these kinds of investments can help rapidly build out clean energy technologies and grow the American economy–emphasis on rapid. If we want to take advantage of this once-in-a-generation opportunity and get ahead of our growing power demands, then we need to directly address our most significant barriers: siting and permitting.
Ahead of the 2022 midterm elections, inflation and high prices were a major concern for American voters shaping their views on the economy. To help policymakers reach them on these issues, Third Way conducted polling and released a series of recommendations. We outlined strategies to engage voters on key concerns surrounding the economy and inflated energy costs–issues that exit poll data tells us had a significant factor in voters’ decision at the ballot box.
Kitchen-table issues like the economy and the price of everyday goods have resonated with voters long-before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine pushed global prices to historic highs.
Earlier in 2022, we released polling that examined how voters in various Black and Latino communities perceive climate change. Spoiler alert: climate change remains a low-ranking issue compared to more salient ones like improving the economy and growing the job market. Policymakers need to understand how to talk to these communities directly about the issues in a way that resonates if we hope to earn their support on a clean energy agenda.
Read More: As Jared DeWese, Deputy Director for Communications for Third Way’s Climate and Energy Program, told TIME Magazine in their coverage of the poll, “It’s really about meeting people where they are.”
If we want to limit warming to 1.5ºC, then we need to cut carbon pollution across hard-to-abate sectors and remove legacy emissions. This is where carbon removal technologies like Direct Air Capture (DAC) come in.
To better understand how DAC facilities and other carbon management technologies can plug into our economy-wide decarbonization strategy, and in communities, Third Way partnered with global design and architecture firm Gensler to generate five visual renderings that show carbon management across different American settings and community types and paired with other clean energy technologies.
Watch and Read More: Dr. Rudra Kapila, Third Way’s Senior Policy Advisor for Carbon Management, explains the importance of these renderings for community outreach and advocacy, or read Emily Pontecorvo’s deeper dive in Grist.
Third Way has spent more than a decade championing smart nuclear policies that ensure every American has access to clean, affordable, secure, and reliable energy. In 2022 we continued that work, advocating for preserving our existing fleet of nuclear reactors like Diablo Canyon. You can read Third Way’s Senior Vice President for Climate and Energy, Josh Freed, unpack the details behind our advocacy for Diablo Canyon here.
As the next generation of nuclear technology stands at the cusp of deployment in the US, we spent 2022 spotlighting the critical role of advanced nuclear for our energy security, economy, and climate, as well as the export opportunities for US companies. But before we can package and ship American nuclear technology across the world, we have to ensure our nuclear supply chain can compete with Russia and China.
Read More: Check out our series Powered by Nuclear, which outlines barriers to securing a domestic nuclear supply chain, including nuclear fuel, and how Third Way is driving that conversation.
Watch: Curious about more of our nuclear work and what’s ahead? Watch Alan Ahn, our Senior Resident Fellow for Nuclear, outline the landscape and Third Way’s role at RE: WIRED Green, Wired Magazine’s event spotlighting climate leaders (and read their coverage of Alan’s work!)
Embracing a technology-inclusive energy transition isn’t just about building a cleaner and more secure future, but about building competitive domestic clean energy industries. With many of our sectors already at a competitive advantage, we spent this year concentrating on how to best strengthen American industries and create new economic opportunities that will secure US leadership in existing and emerging clean technologies.
Along with Breakthrough Energy, Third Way commissioned a report from Boston Consulting Group to assess how US industries can build a durable competitive advantage in clean technologies. We identified a total of six–long-duration energy storage (LDES), electric vehicles (EVs), low-carbon hydrogen (H2), advanced nuclear small modular reactors (SMRs), direct air capture (DAC), and clean steel–that give the US the best chance of winning a competitive edge and generating a combined global market of $2 trillion a year. Justin Worland, in TIME Magazine, contextualizes what these findings mean on a global scale.
Read and Watch: To learn more about this report and the potential for US industries, you can watch our discussions, featuring US Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm and a panel of technical and policy experts, about the economic benefits of American-made clean energy. Also, check out our technology-specific policy memos–on electric vehicles or clean steel–that outline the strategic policies we can put into place to cement US industries and workers as key drivers of global clean energy markets.
Heavy industry–the sector that produces things like steel, cement, concrete, and chemicals–is one of our heaviest polluters, emitting nearly a quarter of US greenhouse gas emissions and is only projected to continue growing. That’s why we spent 2022 outlining ways to cut industrial emissions while also reinvigorating our manufacturing sector.
Watch: As John Milko, our Climate and Industry Consultant, states, the Administration’s Buy Clean standards and procurement practices can make meaningful cuts to carbon emissions while also building US leadership in low-carbon manufacturing–a sector that will balloon in demand. Check out our Buy Clean explainer, which visualizes why efforts to curb industrial emissions are so important.
In the past year, Europe has faced an unprecedented energy crisis due to a combination of Russia’s war in Ukraine, upended global markets, and a longstanding over-reliance on fossil fuels. Recognizing the impact of that dependency early on, Third Way’s Senior Vice President for Climate and Energy, Josh Freed, and Lindsey Walter, Director of International Climate Policy, founded Carbon-Free Europe, launched this Spring, to explore the different technology-inclusive policy pathways that can help Europe decarbonize as quickly as possible.
Carbon-Free Europe utilizes novel modeling to outline feasible, cost-effective pathways for reaching net-zero by 2050 for countries such as the UK, Germany, Romania, and Poland. Looking at our own progress state-side, Josh Freed, and Climate Policy Advisor, Isabelle Chan, outlined steps the UK can take to develop and implement a broad industrial strategy, leveraging public and private investments to develop, deploy, and commercialize key clean energy technologies.
As the energy crisis in Europe deepens and nations contend with the economic impact of US climate policies like the Inflation Reduction Act, even considering their own versions of subsidy-based policies, we are looking ahead to a collaborative year in 2023 with our international allies.
- Robinson Meyer in the Atlantic, Biden’s Climate Law Is Ending 40 Years of Hands-Off Government
- Eric Levitz in New York Magazine, The World Can’t Go Green and Nuclear Free
- Jason Bordoff and Meghan O’Sullivan in Foreign Policy, By Not Acting on Climate, Congress Endangers U.S. National Security
- Julia Pyper and Josh Freed on Political Climate, How Clean Energy Can Strengthen Democracies
- Jesse Jenkins and Ezra Klein on the Ezra Klein Show, the Single Best Guide to Decarbonization I’ve Heard
- Kate Swisher and John Doerr in the New York Times’s Sway, The Planet is Burning, Are Billionaires the Answer?